Health

Fitness, well-being, disease, medical research and issues related to Seton and St. David's Healthcare, Austin Regional Clinic and other health care providers in Austin and Central Texas

Morgue File

Austin women looking for a natural childbirth now have another option: they can give birth at Seton Medical Center with the guidance of a midwife.

Today, Seton announced a collaboration with the Austin Area Birthing Center welcoming certified nurse midwives into the delivery room.  

Some women want to give birth with little medical intervention – but sometimes complications arise, requiring a hospital delivery. Others want the guidance of a midwife – but prefer the peace of mind a being in a hospital. Now, this is possible at Seton Medical Center.

The pain reliever acetaminophen is easy on the stomach. But at high doses, the drug can be hell on the liver.

Now the Food and Drug Administration is asking doctors to refrain from prescribing drugs that contain high doses of acetaminophen to minimize the risk of liver damage.

Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in nonprescription Tylenol. But it's also inside quite a few prescription pain pills, including Vicodin and Percocet.

CDC

Nine deaths from influenza in Travis County this flu season represent just one measure of how severe the season has been.

Dr. Phil Huang, Medical Director of the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, notes that cases started showing up earlier in the season, toward the end of 2013, and that patients under the age of 60 were among the most severely affected. 

"Definitely what we're seeing is worse than what we've seen in some past seasons," Dr. Huang said, "and also the population that's being affected with some of the more severe illness is a younger population than what we were seeing." 

A 33-year-old Texas woman named Marlise Munoz has been connected to life support machines for more than a month, after she collapsed on the kitchen floor of her home.

Her husband says she would not have wanted to be kept alive this way, but the hospital has refused to follow that wish, citing a Texas law that forbids medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient.

Phoebe Flanigan

With a vibrant live music scene, a bustling tech sector and a top-flight university, Austin seems like an oasis for young people.

However, the seemingly youthful Texas capital isn't wasted on the young. 

The Austin-Round Rock area has the fastest growing population of people between ages 55 and 64, and the third-fastest growing for those 65 and over, according to U.S. Census data. 

An organization called Power for Parkinson's is offering those affected by the disease a chance to step forward into an active, healthy life. 

Photo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/mloberg/

All the holiday stress, dehydration and alcohol consumption at this time of the year can lead to something called “holiday heart syndrome.” It’s an irregular heartbeat that often presents in people who are otherwise healthy.

If someone collapses around you, you might be able to save their lives with an automated external defibrillator, or AED. But public health experts say there aren’t nearly enough of them out there. 

CDC

The flu season has hit unusually early this year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, Texas is one of the states hardest hit. Physicians are urging everyone to get a flu shot. 

Typically, the flu season peaks in January, but so far this year at least five deaths have already occurred in Texas. At a press conference Monday, medical experts at Seton Medical Center Austin said the number of positive flu tests has doubled over the past two weeks.

Dr. Irfan Hydari, the medical director of emergency services at Seton, said the flu strand that is responsible for the vast majority of illnesses is H1N1, or swine flu. That strand became notorious in 2009 when it caused a flu pandemic

But Hydari said vaccine technology continues to improve, and this year it has been adapted to combat H1N1.

Under Obamacare, nearly every American has to have health insurance or pay a penalty. One of the few exceptions is for people who are members of what’s called “health care sharing ministries.” The two largest sharing ministries – Samaritan and Medi-Share – have both nearly doubled their membership in Texas since the Affordable Care Act.

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that former Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene will take over the operation of the troubled HealthCare.gov website.

DelBene will take over for Jeff Zients, who was appointed by President Obama to rescue the site after it launched with crippling problems. Zients, who Obama had turned to in the past to fix sticky issues, had made it clear that he was not going to stay on the job past December.

When a heroin epidemic swept through North Texas in the 1990s, it left at least two dozen young people dead. Then the drug seemed to go into hibernation.

Now the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says it’s seeing an alarming number of women from affluent Dallas suburbs buying heroin. And, for many, the addiction begins with prescription pain pills.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez for KUT News

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday not to intervene in Texas’ ongoing abortion litigation, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are working to secure access to the procedure for women across the state.

“We’re working to help make sure that our patients and women across Texas can get the services that they need,” said Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. He said Planned Parenthood staff is predominantly working to secure hospital admitting privileges for physicians who don’t have them. Staffers are also helping women who must now travel long distances to access abortion; in some cases, they are helping to offset the costs of transportation and lodging.

Oregon might be seen as a complete failure or a surprising success when it comes to its health insurance exchange.

One the one hand, the state's website has yet to allow a single person to enroll. That's a big problem for the folks who are hoping to qualify for subsidies and buy insurance that will start Jan. 1.

A new study shows how Travis County’s low-income areas are home to inadequate prenatal care and troublesome birth outcomes – including a racial disparity in neonatal intensive care unit admissions.

The study, released at the Birth Outcomes Summit at Dell Children’s Hospital, uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Texas Department of State Health Services.

President Obama announced Thursday that Americans who have had their health insurance plans canceled because of his Affordable Care Act can keep those plans for another year if they wish.

Those cancellations — most effective on Jan. 1 — have sparked intense criticism of the ACA, in part because the president pledged many times that if Americans liked the health plans they had, they wouldn't have to give them up under the terms of his program.

Fewer than 3,000 people in Texas signed up for health plans in the first month of enrollment through the Affordable Care Act website, according to data released today [PDF] by the Health and Human Services department.

Other Texas findings in the data:

  • 11,682 Texans were determined to be eligible for CHIP and/or Medicaid through the federal health care marketplace, HealthCare.gov.
  • Almost 54,000 Texans actually completed applications. Those applications would cover more than 108,000 individuals.
  • Most of those applicants – over 80,000 – are eligible to enroll in a health insurance plan available through the federal marketplace– but they haven’t done so yet.  

The woman whose smiling face adorned the HealthCare.gov website in the first days after its launch has stepped forward to tearfully address those who she says cyberbullied her as they took potshots at the Obama administration's troubled online health exchange.

KUT News

Robert Winston knows he has a mental disorder – but he didn’t know that for a long time.

He’s convinced his life would’ve turned out much differently had he been diagnosed as a young adult. He probably wouldn’t have left his wife and kids in California. He probably wouldn’t have become dependent on alcohol. He probably wouldn’t have ended up homeless in Austin.

Winston is African-American and he is 52-years-old. “[I’ve] tried to commit suicide twice,” he says. “And I couldn’t understand why I was having a hard time dealing with just the basic things of life.” 

flickr.com/lidor

University of North Texas student Angela Quijano didn’t think about health insurance much before the Affordable Care Act. She says she didn’t know how the health insurance system worked and found getting coverage confusing.

Quijano did know one thing, though: she couldn’t go to the doctor because she didn’t have any health insurance.

“Nobody ever really talks about it. My parents basically told me when I had it, or (when) I didn’t have it,” Quijano, a 22-year-old senior majoring in political science, says. “Not too many of us think about it until it comes time to get a yearly checkup or something comes up.”

flickr.com/tifotter

Here’s a new Halloween practice some dentists see as a treat: Halloween candy buybacks.

Once the little ones have finished trick-or-treating this year, Austin pediatric dentists are ready to buy back their Halloween candy –  at a buck a pound.

The buyback program is a part of Operation Gratitude. Annually, Operation Gratitude sends more than 100,000 packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and letters of support – including Halloween candy – to U.S. service members deployed in hostile regions.

Following a problem-plagued launch of the HealthCare.gov website, the White House on Monday officially announced a six-week extension to sign up for coverage under the law's individual mandate.

The move has been expected since White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged last week that there was a "disconnect" in the enrollment timeline given the technical issues that have dogged the website.

Pages